(Thymus Vulgaris)

Thyme is a perennial native to the Mediterranean. It is hardy to zone five, but is prone to disease and insect infestation in the deep south. Southern gardeners may want to grow thyme indoors in containers so that conditions may be carefully controlled. Most varieties grow to only six to twelve inches in height, and they make an attractive edging for the perennial border. Leaves are dark gray-green in color, and pale pink flowers bloom at the tips of the stems in summer.

You can start thyme from seeds to get a wider selection of varieties. Most nurseries carry transplants in spring and summer. It prefers a sandy, dry soil and plenty of sun. If your soil is acidic, add some lime. If you live in a very cold climate, protect the plants in winter by mulching heavily. Once established, the only care will be regular pruning of the plants and removal of dead flowers and pruning to remove old wood.


Leaves can be harvested for fresh use throughout the summer, but the flavor is best just before flowering. To dry, cut the stems just as the flowers start to open and hang in small bunches. Harvest sparingly the first year.


Fresh and dried thyme is used as a traditional culinary seasoning. The essential oil is also
extracted from the herb and used in both perfumery and flavoring applications. The essential oil has useful antioxidant activity. Thyme is also regarded as a medicinal herb with antispasmodic, expectorant and flatulence-reducing action. Thymol, a major constituent of the oil, has antibacterial, antifungal and anthelmintic activity.

The dried herb is used to give flavor to meat and meat products, condiments, relishes, soups and gravies. Thyme is an ingredient in mixed herbs. Lemon thyme is often used to flavor fish dishes.

The essential oil of thyme is mainly used in flavoring applications in the processed food industry. It is also used to fragrance soaps and detergents where its characteristic fresh, antiseptic aroma is desired.

Thyme produces a distinctive honey that is beginning to find niche markets in Europe and Asia.

Plant and Seed Sources:

The Thyme Garden
20546 Alsea Hwy.,
Atsea, OR 97324;
Catalog $2

Companion Plants
7247 N.Coolville Ridge Rd.,
Athens, OH 45701;
614/592-4643. Catalog $3

Sandy Mush
Herb Nursery
316 Surrett Cove Rd.
Leicester, NC 28746;
Catalog $4

Herb Farm
205 Mr. Bethel Rd.,
Port Murray, NJ 07865;
Catalog $2